Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 44

The federal Prosecutor General’s Office on November 21 sent the Moscow City Court the criminal case involving the July 2004 murder of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov, RIA Novosti reported. According to prosecutors, the murder was carried out by an organized crime group made up of Chechens—including Kazbek Dukuzov, his brother Magomed Dukuzov, Musa Vakhaev, Magomed Edilsultanov and others—which was formed in 2002 to carry out extortion and contract killings. The Prosecutor General’s Office also claims that investigators established that Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev, the former Chechen separatist official and reputed organized crime figure, paid the organized crime group to murder Klebnikov because the American journalist had negatively referred to Nukhaev in his book entitled “Conversation With a Barbarian.” The group is also accused to murdering former Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Yan Sergunin and attempting to kill the businessman Aleksei Pichugin, as well as robbery and extortion. Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhaev are in custody and will appear in court, while Nukhaev, Edilsultanov and Dukuzov remain at large.

Moscow notary Fail Sadretdinov, who is also in custody, will also go on trial. According to an announcement posted on the website of the Prosecutor General’s Office, genproc.gov.ru, Sadretdinov ordered the failed hit on the businessman Aleksei Pichugin. RIA Novosti reported on November 11 that Sadretdinov, who was arrested in May of this year, is charged with attempted murder and organizing the criminal ring that prosecutors say murdered Klebnikov. Vremya novostei, however, reported on November 22 that Sadretdinov “formally” has no connection to Klebnikov’s murder.

Still, Izvestia reported on November 14 that Sadretdinov had written a letter to Klebnikov’s brother, Michael, in which he claimed that in the course of preparing his defense he had been allowed to see materials connected to the Klebnikov murder investigation, including a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation report made at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office that was based on interviews with Klebnikov’s wife, two brothers, uncle and colleagues. In the letter, Sadretdinov quoted the FBI report as saying: “While Paul usually kept quiet when it was a question of his journalistic investigations …not long ago he told about one project he was involved in, and he described it as ‘very big and scary.'” According to Sadretdinov, the FBI report said that Klebnikov had described all his other projects as “small fry” compared to this project—even saying that his investigation of the oligarch Boris Berezovsky (the subject of Klebnikov’s book, “Godfather of the Kremlin”) was “child’s play” in comparison—and that Klebnikov’s relatives had tried to talk him out of pursuing the investigation. According to Izvestia, Sadretdinov said in his letter that the FBI report specifically named “prominent Moscow politicians whom Paul Klebnikov planned to expose, showing their links to Chechens.”

On November 11, RIA Novostei quoted Sadretdinov’s lawyer Ruslan Koblev as saying that he had asked that the case against Sadretdinov be suspended so that his client could undergo a psychiatric examination. “Experts have concluded that our client is in a reactive state that could lead to a psychiatric disorder,” the news agency quoted Koblev as saying. “We asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to suspend the case and to call for the forensic psychiatric expert examination of the defendant.”

Vremya novostei on November 11 quoted another of Sadretdinov’s lawyers, Pyotr Sursky, as saying that there was much that is “incomprehensible” in the Klebnikov case. “For example, there is the testimony of the witness to whom Paul, before his death, described the person who had shot him. “Aleksandr Gordeyev, a colleague of Klebnikov, told investigators: ‘I asked what the attacker looked like and determined whether he was Russian or Caucasian. He [Klebnikov] said: Russian. I asked what color was his hair, and he said black; [he said] that (the attacker) was dressed in black, and judging by his appearances was 30-40 years old. Nevertheless, the investigators practically from the first day elaborated the ‘Chechen’ version. We believe that all this is being done for only one reason—to report to the Americans as quickly as possible that the murder has been solved; and in order to make the ‘Chechen’ version seem the most likely, they invented a whole gang involved in contract killings, in which Sadretdinov is needed as a connecting link between two episodes that before this were not at all connected to each other.”

Michael Klebnikov, it should be noted, has stated that he is “skeptical” of Russian investigators’ conclusion that Nukhaev murdered his brother (see Chechnya Weekly August 18).

Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usacheva reported on November 22 that the Paul Klebnikov murder case would be tried before a jury, but that it would be closed to the public because it would include information classified as “secret,” RIA Novosti reported.